Until fairly recently, pink champagne or sparkling wine left many wine purists cold. But today there are plenty of tasty choices. Our expert tasters found seven.
True champagne must come from the Champagne region of France. It's fermented, then bottled with additional yeast and sugar, which causes a second fermentation and creates bubbles. Sparkling wine can come from anywhere and is produced by that traditional method or by the tank method (the second fermentation occurs before bottling, in a stainless-steel tank).
The yeast converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In a closed bottle, there's an equilibrium between the CO2 dissolved in the wine and the CO2 trapped above it. When you pop the cork, the pressure of the bottled gas falls abruptly, and CO2 rushes from the wine—hence the noise and fizz.
All of the rated wines are tart and at least somewhat yeasty, with a medium to long finish. Lingo to learn as you peruse the Ratings (available to subscribers): Candy banana is an artificial-banana flavor, Juicy Fruit is like the gum, and mousse refers to the profusion of bubbles and the explosion of foam in the mouth when you sip.
Sparkling wines pair well with raw or cooked seafood, savory appetizers (chicken satay, cheese puffs, quiche), and spicy Asian dishes. Our tasters recommended the De Bortoli Emeri Pink Moscato with fruit salad and sweet and savory finger foods; the Korbel Brut with eggs Benedict, coffee cake, glazed ham, and poached salmon.
An analysis published last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that pouring sparkling wine gently down the side of a glass preserves about twice as much CO2 as pouring straight to the bottom of the glass; tall flutes preserve bubbles better than wide, shallow glasses; and bubbles stay longer if the wine is very cold.
The De Bortoli and Korbel cost just $12 each. The Yellow Tail Sparkling Bubbles rated almost as high, costs just $8, and has an easy-open, resealable cap. (There are no cork missiles, and bubbles are saved for a later day.)
If pink isn't your color, consider these very good sparkling whites: Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut, $36; Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, $16; and Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, $17.